The most impressive thing about Zenyatta's victory in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic may not be her dominance over some of the world's best older males.
It might not even be extending her unbeaten streak to 14 races. Or becoming the first distaffer to win the Classic.
It might be that after coming from last to win by 1 length, she seemed to be looking around for more to do.
Winning jockey Mike Smith said he had to work to get Zenyatta to concentrate enough to run down Gio Ponti in deep stretch. But even then, he said, "she still went, believe it or not, well within herself. She was pricking her ears and galloped out. She didn't even take a breath after the race was over. It's just incredible."
Sadly, that's it. For Zenyatta, there are no more hills to climb and no more rivals to circle on the turn with the trademark move that defeated all comers.
The only battle left is for Horse of the Year honors against Rachel Alexandra -- the 3-year-old filly who dominated East Coast racing this year.
Rachel Alexandra skipped the Breeders' Cup because majority owner Jess Jackson doesn't like the Santa Anita artificial surface -- and because it was widely assumed his filly had already locked up Horse of the Year honors.
"I wish they would have brought her here to prove to the racing world what Zenyatta is really about," Smith said. "I'm not going to say I'd have beaten her, because that's one person's opinion. I'd have given anything to run against her."
Among those they did run against, Arlington Million winner Gio Ponte finished second, European star Twice Over was third, Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird finished fourth and Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird got home ninth.
Zenyatta's owner, Jerry Moss, said, "She's our Horse of the Year."
In other results from the Breeders' Cup World Championship program:
Conduit made it two straight wins in the $3 million Emirates Airline Turf, rallying nicely from last to win by 1 1/2 lengths over runaway pace-setter Presious Passion. European filly Dar Re Mi finished third. Sir Michael Stoute trained Conduit and fourth-place finisher Spanish Moon. "It's always a big day for the world championship," Sir Michael said. Winning jockey Ryan Moore said he wasn't worried about catching Presious Passion despite giving up the big lead. "I knew I was going to get there," he said.
Pounced came from Europe to win the $1 million Juvenile Turf by 3/4 length over Bridgetown. Pounced, a Rahy colt, went off as the favorite and was the second straight winner of this race for trainer John Gosden, who scored last year with Donativum. He likely will be a contender in the English classics next spring. Nat Rothschild, representing the owners, said they "don't think about the next step. This is a great achievement for us."
California Flag and Gotta Have Her carried the local colors to a 1-2 finish in the $1 million Turf Sprint with California Flag leading from gate to wire and Gotta Have Her running from far back. Cannonball, an American who raced at Ascot this summer, finished third. Winning rider Joe Talamo is only 19 years old. "I'm humbled by the experience," he said. "I really am."
Dancing in Silks led a parade of upsetters in the $2 million Sentient Jet Sprint, winning by a nose in a four-horse blanket finish. With Crown of Thorns and Cost of Freedom second and third, the $1 trifecta returned $2,145.90. The favorite, Zensational, got off a step slow and finished fifth. Second favorite Gayego got home fourth. "My horse always has his head up so I was hoping that would help at the finish," said winning rider Joel Rosario.
Vale of York, gave Godolphin Stable a ray of sunshine in an otherwise somewhat disappointing Breeders' Cup as the longshot son of Invincible Spirit rallied between horses to win the $2 million Grey Goose Juvenile by a head over favorite Lookin at Lucky. Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said the victory moves Vale of York to the No. 1 spot in Godolphin's 2010 Kentucky Derby prospect list, though he will winter in Dubai.
Goldikova reprised her 2008 victory in the $2 million mile, rallying this time from the outside post position and the back of the pack to score by 1/2 length over Courageous Cat. Her back-to-back wins give trainer Freddie Head four wins in the event. He scored back-to-back victories riding Miesque in 1987 and 1988. "We haven't discussed her future," Head said of his 4-year-old. "Maybe we'll come back and try for three" when the Breeders' Cup returns to Churchill Downs in 2010.
Furthest Land upset the $1 million Dirt Mile, sticking close to the lead and getting clear at the end to beat late-running Ready's Echo by 3/4 length, keying a $1 trifecta return of $2,933.40. Midshipman, who won last year's Juvenile, finished third after leading most of the way. Furthest Land finished fourth in the Claiming Crown Jewel this summer, then won the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park en route to the Breeders' Cup. He earned $540,000 Saturday. Owner Ken Ramsey said he's thinking about the Dubai World Cup.
On Friday's card:
European runner Man of Iron got the upset-filled Championships off to a minor surprise by winning the $500,000 Marathon by a nose over 9-year-old Cloudy's Knight. Another European, Mastery, was the favorite and finished third. Trainer Aidan O'Brien said jockey John Murtagh told him he would "take his time because that's the way he likes to be ridden. That's what he did." The winner is a 4-year-old Giant's Causeway colt.
Tapitsfly got past pace-setting Rose Catherine in the final jumps to win the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf by 1/2 length with House of Grace third. Tapitsfly, raced in Kentucky and New York, got her third win in seven starts. "She's a little fighter, I'll tell you that," said winning jockey Robby Albarado.
She Be Wild got through an opening along the rail at the top of the stretch in the $2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies and went on to win by 3/4 length over Beautician. Blind Luck was third as the favorite. She Be Wild, an Offlee Wild filly who campaigned in Chicago and Kentucky, now has four wins and a second from five career starts. "I got a perfect trip," said winning jockey Julien Leparoux. "I was on the rail all the way."
Midday got to the lead with a furlong left in the $2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf and kicked home first, 1 length better than Pure Clan. Forever Together, winner of last year's running, finished third. Midday, a 3-year-old, British-bred filly, finished third in the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp a month earlier. She also was third in the Irish Oaks and second in the English Oaks this summer. "I saw lots of rails all the way around," said jockey Thomas Queally. "It was a dream run."
Informed Decision pressed the pace in the $1 million Sentient Jet Filly & Mare Sprint, got the lead in the stretch and held on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over defending champion and favorite Ventura. Free Flying Soul made the early pace and held on for third. Informed Decision has lost only once in seven starts this year -- that on a sloppy track at Belmont Park. Winning trainer Jonathan Sheppard said he knew Ventura would be coming late. "But our filly galloped so hard to the line, she wasn't going to catch us."
He said Informed Decision, a 4-year-old, will stay in training next year.
Life Is Sweet came from last of eight to upset the $2 million Ladies Classic, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Mushka with Music Note third and the favorite, Careless Jewel, last after setting the pace. Life Is Sweet, a 4-year-old Storm Cat filly, had been chasing Zenyatta in most of her races this summer and found the going a bit easier without that rival. "When you have some tough races like she did, it will take something out of you," said winning jockey Garrett Gomez. "I'm glad they were able to get her confidence back."
In other weekend racing:
Tuscan Evening stalked the pace in Friday's $200,000 Las Palmas Handicap for fillies and mares, then went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Closeout closed fast to take second, a nose ahead of Cat by the Tale. Tuscan Evening, a 4-year-old Irish-bred filly by Oasis Dream, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.5.
Smart Bid got to the lead inside the furlong marker in Saturday's $100,000 Damascus Stakes for 3-year-olds and held on to win by 1 length over Supreme Summit with the favorite, M One Rifle, third. Smart Bid, a Pennsylvania-bred son of Smart Strike, got the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.53. Jeremy Rose had the mount for trainer H. Graham Motion.
The Usual Q.T. held off the late bid of Battle of Hastings to win Saturday's $150,000 Oak Tree Derby by a head, with No Inflation finishing third. The Usual Q.T. is a California-bred Unusual Heat gelding. James Cassidy gave the leg up to Victor Espinoza.
Productive Envoy, at 56-1, rallied four-wide around the leaders on the turn for home in Friday's $250,000 Louisiana Legacy Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds and shot off to a 1 1/4-length victory over the favorite, Red Rally. Mr. Wildlee was third. Productive Envoy, a son of Run Production, finished the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.67 under Diego Saenz. Tony Richey trains the winner.
Shezacrazygirl stumbled at the start of Friday's $250,000 Louisiana Jewel Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies, wove through traffic to reach contention in the stretch and drew off to win by 2 lengths over The Rumor's True. Scarlet Tribute finished third. Shezacrazygirl, a gray daughter of Ide, got the 7 furlongs in 1:27.55 with Joe Bravo up.
Rule jumped right to the lead in Friday's $175,000 Jean Laffite Stakes for 2-year-olds, gradually drew clear and won by 9 lengths over Grand Slam Andre. Oak Motte finished third. Rule, a Kentucky-bred Roman Ruler colt, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.45. The WinStar Farm homebred is trained by Todd Pletcher.
Truth and Justice dueled for the lead in Friday's $125,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, opened up a clear lead at the top of the lane and held off Bella Diamante to win by 3/4 length. Best Reward finished third. Truth and Justice, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Yes It's True, ran 7 furlongs in 1:26.29 with Joe Bravo up for trainer Kelly Breen.
Demarcation rallied between rivals in the stretch to upset Friday's $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Glamour Guy. Spotsgone finished third. Demarcation, a 5-year-old Gulch gelding, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.15 with Jesus Castanon up.
Malibu Prayer stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Chilukki Stakes for fillies and mares, then took the lead on the turn and finished first, 1 length ahead of Copper State. The favorite, One Caroline, led early and held third. Malibu Prayer, a 3-year-old, Virginia-bred Malibu Moon filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.24 under Chris DeCarlo.
Expansion, making his stakes debut, came from last to upset Saturday's $150,000 Red Smith Handicap. Expansion, a 4-year-old son of Maria's Mon, was still at the back of the field on the final turn, then came around the leaders at the top of the lane and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Grand Couturier. With Channing Hill up, Expansion ran the 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:18.93.
Buddy's Saint stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Nashua Stakes for 2-year-olds, then hit the afterburners in the stretch, running away from the competition to win by 12 lengths. Thank U Philippe was second and the odds-on favorite, Toboggan Slide, finished third after some bumping at the start. Buddy's Saint, a Kentucky-bred Saint Liam colt, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.67. Jose Lezcano rode for trainer Bruce Levine.
Ailalea sat off the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Tempted Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, came three-wide around the leaders on the turn and worked clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Mambo Fever was second and the early leader, Nonna Mia, saved third. Ailalea, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Pulpit, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.75. Eibar Coa rode and Todd Pletcher trains.
Serenading led all the way in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Maple Leaf Stakes for fillies and mares, holding off the heavy favorite, Ginger Brew by 2 1/4 lengths at the wire. Roses 'n' Wine was third and Flowerbomb completed the order of finish. Serenading, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred A.P. Indy mare, ran the 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in a deliberate 2:06.19 as jockey Patrick Husbands husbanded her speed.
Encaustic got the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $125,000 Mountaineer Mile and kicked in another gear, drawing off to win by 3 lengths over the favorite, Researcher. Cryptolight came in third. Encaustic, a 5-year-old, Maryland-bred son of Broad Brush, finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.56 with Ricardo Feliciano in the irons.
Shocking, making his second start in just four days' time, caught Crime Scene in the final yards to win Tuesday's Melbourne Cup at Flemington Race Course in Australia. At the wire, Shocking defended the home turf by 1 length over the Godolphin Racing invader with Mourilyan rallying from far back to take third. Shocking got the 2 miles on soft turf in 3:23.87 with Corey Brown in the irons. The 4-year-old son of Street Cry won a handicap over the same course on Saturday but winning trainer Mark Kavanagh said it didn't look like a repeat through much of Tuesday's big race. "Shocking was trapped deep all the way and I didn't give him a hope," Kavanagh said. "But he went so good on Saturday and he's come to himself at the right time." The favorite, Alcopop, finished sixth. Last year's winner, Viewed, got home seventh.